By Thomas Gerbasi
Wednesday morning’s announcement that UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was fully healed from a bout with diverticulosis and getting ready for a return to the Octagon later in 2010 was the news millions of fight fans had been waiting to hear. As for the rest of the heavyweight division, Lesnar isn’t so sure. More about his triumph over illness
“I’m getting ready for anybody and everybody,” said the champion. “I know the heavyweight class is back on their toes again because Brock Lesnar’s back.”
Lesnar, 32, was confident and talking with the swagger we’ve come to expect from him during a media teleconference today. But back in October, things weren’t so sunny for the native of Webster, South Dakota, who saw his training camp for a UFC 106 bout with Shane Carwin derailed by illness.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first,” he said. “I had been suffering for almost a year with something I didn’t really know what it was. I had stomach pains here and there and some flu-like symptoms throughout the year. In the camp for Carwin, it snowballed, and I was missing full weeks of my training camp because I just couldn’t perform.”
Initially, doctors thought Lesnar possibly had mononucleosis or swine flu, but he refused to take a CT scan, figuring that a long rest after the postponement of the November Carwin bout would do the trick. It didn’t, and soon Lesnar was being rushed back to the States from a hunting trip in Canada for what turned out to be a severe case of diverticulitis known as diverticulosis.
Doctors both at Medcenter One in Bismarck, North Dakota and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota recommended an invasive surgery that would remove a section of his colon, force him to wear a colostomy bag for six to eight weeks, and then have him undergo another surgery.
Lesnar, who spent 11 days in the hospital and fell to a weight of 248 pounds he jokes that he hadn’t seen since “like second grade,” refused the surgery that he admits would have probably retired him from the sport.
He made an immediate change to his diet and soon got the green light to go back to the gym.
“I totally changed my diet, got on some natural healing medicine, and was doing a lot of praying,” said Lesnar, whose previous diet left much to be desired.
“For years I was surviving on meat and potatoes, and when the greens came by, I just kept passing ‘em.”
As for getting back to his normal fighting weight and getting his strength and cardio back, that wasn’t easy.
“Talk about starting from ground zero,” he said. “You sit in a hospital and you lose 40 pounds and I just wanted to get my strength back. I had a hard time getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom, I’d be out of breath. But ironically, I think it’s raised my conditioning level because I was at the bottom of the barrel, and now I’m back in the gym, I was helping Cole Konrad and Chris Tuchscherer last week, and I feel great. I feel like my old self again.”
Now up to 273 pounds, Lesnar got a colonoscopy on January 5th that gave him a clean bill of health and a CT scan from this week came up aces as well. Lesnar had dodged a bullet, and he’s made the changes he needed to make to hopefully avoid another incident like this one that halted his career and put his life in danger.
“Everybody’s got life-changing experiences and this is one of them for me,” he said. “I believe things happen for a reason, and this gave me a different perspective on life and on my family. I’m a young guy – these things aren’t supposed to happen. I consider myself a healthy human being. I’m 32 years old, and for something like this to happen, I definitely had to re-evaluate. When you think you’re doing all the right things and all of a sudden something like this happens, obviously you’re not, so I had to make some changes.”
One thing hasn’t changed though, and that’s his desire to continue his reign atop the heavyweight division. Next on his agenda is an expected summer bout with the winner of the interim heavyweight title bout between Shane Carwin and Frank Mir on March 27th, or if the winner of that fight isn’t ready to go that soon, a bout against the winner of the UFC 110 match between “Minotauro” Nogueira and Cain Velasquez. Ask Lesnar who he wants next, and he really doesn’t care, as long as the challenger is gloved up and ready to go on fight night.
“I can’t dwell on any of that,” he said. “That’s the future and that’s the beauty of it. I’ll just sit back, sharpen my skills, and I’ll be ready for either one of those guys (Carwin or Mir), or even if it’s Nogueira or Velasquez, I know one thing – all those guys are s**tting their pants right now.”